That’s not to say that there’s no correlation between how we raise our kids and how they feel as adults. Generally, there is. But it’s also true that there are factors at play beyond what we do—genetics, temperament, and parent-child fit, to name a few (which is why siblings raised in the same home can be very different as adults).
I imagine that you love your daughter and had the best of intentions, and that it’s hard to understand her perspective or hear her complaints because, after all, you tried your hardest. Yes, you may think, you weren’t perfect, but who is? Being blamed for a child’s unhappiness can make a parent feel defensive and frustrated, but layered underneath that frustration might be feelings of shame or self-blame. (My grown daughter’s life is her responsibility, not mine—but what if there’s some truth in what she’s saying?) One way to rid yourself of those feelings is to dismiss her complaints entirely—which probably just makes her protest louder. Replacing self-blame with self-compassion, on the other hand, will allow you to look more closely at yourself, in a kind way, so that you can consider with an open mind why your daughter might be so angry with you even if you did your absolute best as a parent under the circumstances.
What’s beautiful about self-compassion is that the more compassion you have for yourself (knowing that despite your mistakes, you did your best), the more compassion you’ll have for your daughter (knowing that even so, it wasn’t enough for her). Compassion will help you to see that there’s often a gap between what a parent intends and what a child experiences, and that what may seem insignificant to you may have been quite painful to her. Most important, compassion will help you both to call a truce.
I say “truce” because the two of you are engaged in a battle over who’s responsible for your daughter’s current predicament. For her, the battle might look something like this: “I won’t help myself to be happier, Mom, until you acknowledge your role in my pain.” In other words: I’ll only change my ways, Mom, if you change yours. Meanwhile, from your side, the battle is: “I won’t acknowledge having any role in your pain until you grow up and get your life together.” In other words: I won’t change my ways, Daughter, until you change yours. It’s like a game of chicken—she won’t change until you give her what she wants (taking her complaints seriously), and you won’t change until she gives you what you want (her moving past her hurt). Neither of you wants to go first.
I suggest that you go first—which doesn’t mean that you’re “wrong” and she’s “right.” Going first doesn’t take away the complex calculus of why certain choices were made or why various interactions occurred. It just means that the battle is serving neither of you, and it’s time for the standoff to end.